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Jaafari: Ending Civilians’ Suffering Requires Implementing UN Resolutions

Al-Manar | February 25, 2018

Syria’s Permanent Representative at the UN Bashar al-Jaafari said that ending the suffering of Syrians doesn’t require showboating sessions or forming UN committees; it only requires applying the 30 resolutions issued by the UN.

In a speech after the Security Council voted on a resolution calling for the cessation of combat activities in Syria for at least 30 days, Jaafari said that the people in Damascus are truly suffering due to the acts of the terrorists positioned in the Eastern Ghouta, adding “the appeals of 8 million Syrians do not reach the General Secretariat or the mailboxes of Britain and France’s representatives, but the appeals of terrorists do reach them.”

He noted that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent HQ in Damascus was targeted by 10 shells fired by the so-called “moderate” terrorists located in Ghouta, killing and injuring people including a doctor.

Jaafari stressed meanwhile, that the Syrian government has dealt in a serious manner with all initiatives and was committed to them due to its care for the lives of Syrian citizens, and that the government has called on armed groups in the Eastern Ghouta to lay down their weapons and provided safe corridors for civilians to exit it.

Syria’s Representative said that the Astana agreement had stipulated for committing the armed groups to break any ties to ISIL and Nusra Front terrorist groups, and gave the Syrian government the right to retaliate to any attack.

“We practice a sovereign right of self-defense and we will continue to fight terrorism wherever it is found on Syrian soil,” Jaafari affirmed, adding that the Syrian government reserves the full right to retaliate against armed terrorist groups if they target civilians with even a single shell.

The Syrian diplomat asserted that the new resolution should be applied to the entirety of Syrian territory, including Afrin, and areas occupied by US forces, and the occupied Syrian Golan.

He also said that what is required is for the governments of the United States, Britain, and France to stop holding meetings and making strategic plans that bring to mind the age of colonialism and that seek to divide Syria and change the governing system in it by force.

February 25, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 1 Comment

Montreal Gazette’s anti-Palestinian bias

By Yves Engler · February 24, 2018

Shame on the Montréal Gazette. Shame on Dan Delmar. Even when McGill’s uber-Israeli nationalist administration dismisses allegations of “anti-Semitism” the paper and its writer uses them to smear freedom promoting students.

In October Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee activist Noah Lew cried “anti-Semitism” after he wasn’t voted on to the Board of Directors of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). At a General Assembly Democratize SSMU sought to impeach the student union’s president Muna Tojiboeva. The ad-hoc student group was angry over her role in suspending an SSMU vice president and adopting a Judicial Board decision that declared a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution unconstitutional. While they couldn’t muster the two thirds of votes required to oust the non-Jewish president of the student union, Democratize SSMU succeeded in blocking the re-election of two Board of Directors candidates who supported the effort to outlaw BDS resolutions.

After failing to be re-elected to the Board of Directors at the same meeting Noah Lew claimed he was “blocked from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations.” Lew’s claim received international coverage, including coverage in the Gazette.

As she’s done on previous occasions, McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier echoed the Israel activists’ claims. Fortier sent out two emails to all students and faculty about the incident with one of them noting, “allegations have arisen suggesting that the votes against one or more of those directors were motivated by anti-Semitism.” At the time she announced an investigation into the incident.

Released two weeks ago, the investigation dismissed Lew’s claim of anti-Semitism. After interviewing 38 students over three-and-a-half weeks, former Student Ombudsman Dr. Spencer Boudreau concluded that he could “not substantiate the notion that the vote was motivated by anti-Semitism” and couldn’t find “evidence that would equate students’ protests about Israel’s policies with anti-Semitism.” Rather, Boudreau found that the vote was “motivated by politics, that is, based on his [Lew] support for Israel and Zionism and/or for his view of the BDS movement.”

Instead of covering the investigation, the Gazette repeated the Israel nationalist’s baseless smear. A story headlined “Student says anti-Semitism still an issue in McGill student government” quoted Lew and Israel lobby organizations objecting to the report’s findings. The article barely acknowledged the central conclusion of the investigation and failed to quote from it.

Four days after the news story Gazette columnist Dan Delmar criticized the report in a story titled “If anti-Semitism isn’t the problem on campus, what is?” The long-time anti-Palestinian commentator wrote, “for many if not most Canadian Jews, this writer included, the phenomenon of campus anti-Semitism in Canada is a reality and has been particularly problematic for nearly two decades.”

While the Gazette’s attacks are shameful, they are not surprising. The paper has engaged in a multi-year smear campaign against Palestine solidarity activists at McGill. According to a search of the Gazette’s database, the paper has published 12 stories referring to anti-Semitism at McGill since 2014 (I couldn’t find a single Gazette story detailing anti-Black, Asian or indigenous discrimination at the elite university). Rather than a sudden growth of anti-Jewishness, the spate of anti-Semitism stories are a response to students campaigning to divest from corporations complicit in Israel’s occupation. Between 2014 and 2016 there were three votes inspired by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement at biannual SSMU General Assemblies. After two close votes, in February 2016 a motion mandating the student union to support some BDS demands passed the union’s largest ever General Assembly, but failed an online confirmation vote after the McGill administration, Montreal’s English media and pro-Israel Jewish groups blitzed students.

Since that vote Lew and other anti-Palestinian activists have sought to have SSMU define BDS resolutions as unconstitutional. Concurrently, the university’s board of governors is seeking changes to its endowment’s social responsibility criteria, which would effectively block the possibility of divesting from companies violating Palestinian rights or causing climate disturbances.

The Gazette has ignored the Israel activists and administration’s extreme anti-Palestinian measures. The paper has also ignored the administration’s pro-Israel orientation. In May Principal Fortier traveled to that country and in November McGill Vice-Principal Innovation Angelique Mannella participated in an event put on by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund.

In his column Delmar asks, “If anti-Semitism isn’t the problem on campus, what is?” The answer is obvious: Many students feel embarrassed and angry about their university — and other Canadian institutions’ — complicity in Palestinian dispossession. When they try to channel their emotions into non-violent action to help liberate a long-oppressed people they are blocked by powerful institutions and called names. The problem is the anti-Palestinian bias of those institutions, including the Gazette.

February 24, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Token Gestures’: International Rescue Committee Slams Saudi Yemen Relief Plan

Sputnik | February 23, 2108

This week, the International Rescue Committee issued a statement condemning Saudi Arabia’s Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO), stating that the program is “neither comprehensive, nor reflective of clear, shared humanitarian priorities.”

Last month, the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy announced the launch of YCHO, a relief program that allegedly aims to improve the humanitarian situation in Yemen by committing billions of dollars in aid and support.

The three-year civil conflict In Yemen, which intensified when a Saudi-led, US-backed coalition launched massive airstrikes against the Houthi political opposition faction in 2015, has killed about 10,000 people and injured thousands more, placing more than 28 million Yemenis in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The number of suspected cholera cases in the war-torn country also hit 1 million by the end of December.

YHCO’s stated goals are to increase capacities of Yemeni ports so they can receive humanitarian and commercial imports, open an air bridge from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Ma’rib in Yemen with daily cargo planes equipped with humanitarian aid, as well as establish 17 safe-passage corridors from six entry points in order secure safe transportation of aid to NGOs inside Yemen.

However, according to senior policy and advocacy director at the International Rescue Committee Amanda Catanzano, “The name [of YHCO] in itself is misleading: it is neither comprehensive, nor particularly humanitarian. The Saudi-led coalition is offering to fund a response to address the impact of a crisis it helped to create. The acute crisis in Yemen needs more than what appears to be a logistical operations plan, with token gestures of humanitarian aid.” In fact, the International Rescue Committee argues that the Saudi plan is more about gaining control over Yemen than about human rights.

In November, Saudi Arabia announced that it would temporarily close all ports in Yemen, the gateways through which some 70 percent of the country’s population receive food, medical aid and other supplies delivered.

According to the International Rescue Committee, the YHCO does not end the de-facto blockade. Given the severity of the Yemen humanitarian crisis, all ports should be permanently open, especially key ones like Hodeidah and Saleef. The YCHO only allows Hodeidah to remain open for 30 days, which will not make much difference on the ground, the International Rescue Committee claims in their statement. Although the development of more Yemeni ports could be helpful, it does not replace opening access to Red Sea northern ports like Hodeidah and Saleef, especially since the southern ports lack the necessary infrastructure and capacity. By controlling the flow of aid in the country, the Saudis are limiting aid to regions they control, particularly to “loyal” ports in the country’s south.

In addition, the YHCO does not address Yemen’s collapsed economy. Although the YCHO claims to aim to economically stabilize the country, it does not mention restoring basic public services including basic government services.

“A meaningful response to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis requires more access — not less. At best, this plan would shrink access and introduce new inefficiencies that would slow the response and keep aid from the neediest Yemenis, including the over 8 million on the brink of starvation,” said Catanzano. “At worst, it would dangerously politicize humanitarian aid by placing far too much control over the response in the hands of an active party to the conflict.”

February 24, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Hamas: Abbas’s speech did not rise up to the desired level

Palestine Information Center – February 22, 2018

GAZA – Palestinian resistance group Hamas criticized Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas following his speech at the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

In a press release, Hamas underlined that the political plan presented by Abbas in his speech does not reflect the national position which calls for an end to the Oslo Accords and which opposes a resumption of negotiations with Israel.

“Abbas’s speech did not rise up to the desired level, nor did it reflect the national consensus, which wants to terminate the Oslo agreements and rejects negotiations with the occupiers,” Hamas said.

Abbas is working to create a new mechanism for the failed peace process despite Israel’s violations and crimes against Palestinian women and children and the dangerous bias of the United States in favor of Israel on Jerusalem and the refugees and the encouragement it gives Israel to commit crimes and liquidate the Palestinian cause, the statement reads.

In this context, Hamas demanded an end to Abbas’s unilateral decision-making, and instead of following the path of a political process, to accelerate the unification of the ranks within the Palestinian arena and reach an agreement on a national strategy that focuses on the path of resistance.

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to Admit the Afghan War is ‘Nonsense’

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | February 22, 2018

Whatever happened to the Donald Trump who tweeted in 2013, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan … we waste billions there. Nonsense!”

And whatever happened to the reality TV star who used to tell under-performers, “you’re fired”?

Today, as commander in chief, President Trump is indefinitely extending the Afghan war’s record as the longest in U.S. history. He’s wasting $45 billion to wage it this year alone. And he’s not even thinking of firing his huckster generals who claim that sending a few thousand more troops and stepping up the bombing will be a “game changer.”

Much like the Vietnam War, every day’s news of war from Afghanistan puts the lie to optimistic claims of a military solution. A recent BBC study concluded that Taliban forces are now active in 70 percent of the country, more than at any time since the end of 2001. Unofficial U.S. estimates of their strength have soared from about 20,000 in 2014 to at least 60,000 today.

Afghan government forces number several times as many, but—like their counterparts in the Vietnam War—they “lack the one thing the U.S. cannot provide: the will to fight a protracted campaign against a committed enemy,” in the words of Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The Taliban have proven that no place in Afghanistan is safe from their long arm. At the beginning of February, they infiltrated a bomb-laden ambulance into Kabul, just blocks from a meeting at the Afghan Ministry of Defense with the head of the U.S. Central Command. Its blast killed more than 100 people and injured 235. It followed only days after Taliban gunmen stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least 20 people, including four Americans.

Inspector General Finds No Progress

The latest Inspector General report on the status of “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel,” issued Feb. 18, declares that U.S. and Afghan government forces made no progress last year in expanding their control of the country or in forcing the Taliban to the peace table, one of the administration’s stated goals.

“In addition,” the report said, “there were growing concerns about whether Afghanistan will be able to hold parliamentary elections as planned in July 2018, and the country was struggling to provide assistance to nearly two-million internally displaced persons.”

The report also highlighted the lethality of Taliban operations against Afghan military and police forces, but it declined to offer numbers, noting that the U.S. military had classified them at the request of the Afghan government.

To justify its optimism, the Trump administration has touted its ostensibly new tactic of bombing drug labs to deny the Taliban revenue. The Inspector General notes that such operations were undertaken as far back as 2009, to no end:

“The United Nations reported that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan set a new record in 2017. Cultivated land increased 63 percent over 2016 levels and potential opium production set a new record at 9,000 tons. The United Nations stated that the Afghan government’s strategic focus on protecting population centers in 2017 might have made rural populations more vulnerable to the influence of anti-government entities who pay local farmers to grow poppy and protect farmers from government eradication efforts.”

Similarly, U.S. military operations have failed to suppress Afghanistan’s version of ISIS, which recently conducted several spectacular terror attacks in Kabul. The U.S. command made “no discernible progress” on convincing Pakistan to close its borders to insurgents. Last but not least, the Afghan government remains a mess, riven by factional fights between President Ashraf Ghani and provincial warlords.

An Incoherent Policy

Meanwhile, unaddressed by the IG is the basic incoherence of a policy of bombing the Taliban into reconciliation. On paper, Washington aims to force the Taliban to the negotiating table, acknowledging that outright victory is impossible. But only this January, President Trump told members of the UN Security Council, “we don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” and a spokesman for President Ghani said recently, “We never negotiate with groups who resort to crime and the brutal killing of people and then claim responsibility for it.”

That sounds like a policy of stalemate if ever there was one.

“For years, we have been pursuing a strategy that will not win, but at the same time, we are doing just enough to ensure that we do not entirely lose,” concedes Kevin Hulbert, former CIA station chief in Kabul. “The way forward will be determined by clarifying our objectives, which to this point, have remained ambiguous at best.”

Clarifying our objectives would certainly help, but just as important are clarity about U.S. interests and capabilities.

Ever since 9/11, policy makers have largely taken American interests for granted. Yet aside from fantasies about developing Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, it’s hard to make a serious case that American lives and treasure will be more at risk from getting out of Afghanistan than continuing an endless war. The only significant interest at stake is political: no president wants to lose such a war.

And as to capabilities, the Obama-era surge proved that even with 100,000 troops, the United States cannot win a war against committed, indigenous insurgents who enjoy unlimited funding and protected foreign sanctuaries. Unlike the United States, the Taliban have nowhere to go. They will wait us out, even if that means fighting for another 16 years.

A decade ago, a top-level policy analysis requested by President George W. Bush admitted, “The United States is not losing in Afghanistan, but it is not winning either, and that is not good enough.” Those words are as true in 2018 as they were in 2008. The situation is still not good enough, and there’s no chance of it getting any better. It’s time for President Trump to wake up and say “you’re fired!” to anyone on his team who pretends otherwise.

Jonathan Marshall is the author or co-author of five books on U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. His articles on Afghanistan include “The Goal of ‘Not Losing’ in Afghanistan,”  “Blaming the Afghan War Failure on — Russia,” and “Afghanistan: President Obama’s Vietnam.”

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 4 Comments

US-Russia rivalry surges in Syria

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | February 20, 2018

A major speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday at an international conference on the Middle East turned into the strongest Russian denunciation to date of the shift in the US policies under the Trump administration towards Syria, where the Pentagon now intends to keep a military presence indefinitely. (here and here)

The overall impression Lavrov conveyed is three-fold. One, in immediate terms, a spurt in fighting in Syria can be expected, as the US attempts to create new facts on the ground by using local proxies — Kurdish militia plus al-Qaeda affiliates and ISIS fighters — as well as to push back at Russia, Iran and the Syrian government.

Two, Russia concludes that the shift in the overall US strategy aims at balkanizing Syria. (Later on Monday, while speaking to the media in Moscow, Lavrov also drew attention to the presence of mercenaries and the Special Forces of France and Britain in northeastern Syria working in league with the US forces in implementing the American agenda to create zones of influence.)

Three, the conversation between Moscow and Washington regarding Syria is at a dead end. Lavrov specifically warned Washington that it is “playing with fire” in Syria, implying that the US strategy will run into resistance.

Two other features of the Moscow conference in Moscow are that, first, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif took part in it, and, second, the event also talked up a Russian mediatory role to calm down the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Zarif told Lavrov at a meeting in Moscow on Monday that Tehran seeks Russia’s help in resolving the intra-regional rifts in the Muslim Middle East. Later, Zarif posted on his official Tweeter account: “With Russia’s sober strategic perspective and its growing influence in West Asia, it can play an instrumental role to help a paradigm shift in the Persian Gulf to one based on dialogue and inclusion.”

The conference was attended by non-official delegates from several Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, King Abdullah of Jordan had paid a ‘working visit’ to Moscow on February 15 and met Putin. On the previous day, Lavrov had spoken to his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Hassan Shoukry on phone. Yesterday, Putin also telephoned Turkish President Recep Erdogan. The focus was on Syria in all these exchanges.

The Russian strategy will be to persuade important regional states who have been the US’ key regional allies – Saudi Arabia and Jordan, in particular – not to rejoin the conflict in Syria by fueling a new round of fighting. If the approach succeeds, the US may find itself at a disadvantage in lacking regional support for pressing ahead with the military track.

However, although Russia’s ties with Saudi Arabia have appreciably strengthened in the recent years, Moscow’s capacity to mediate a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement remains to be seen. Syria continues to be a major source of rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And, the irony is that, finally, the Trump administration is doing what Saudi Arabia had wanted the previous Obama administration to do by pushing upfront the ‘regime change’ agenda in Syria through coercive methods.

In the Saudi perception, Russia suffered a series of setbacks in Syria recently. Summing up the Syrian situation, Ghassan Charbel, editor-in-chief of the influential Saudi establishment daily Asharq Al-Awsat wrote on Monday, “ Never before have all these flags, interests, dangers, armies, militias, internal divisions and regional and international clashes come together on its (Syria’s) territories. From the South to Idlib to Hmeimem to Afrin, Syria is like a powder keg. It is at the heart of a complex and vast geo-strategic conflict that is impossible to resolve with force and where losses and rewards will be difficult to predict… The regional and international circumstances do not appear ripe for… talks to happen. The Syrian tragedy is open to the most dangerous possibilities.”

The Saudi inclination will be to wait and watch which way the winds are blowing. On the other hand, the war in Yemen remains Saudi Arabia’s number one priority today and Riyadh seeks a Russian role in ending the war in Yemen by leveraging its influence with Iran.

February 20, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rouhani Phones Erdogan, Highlights Necessity of Respecting Syria’s Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity

Al-Manar | February 20, 2018

Iran’s President Sheikh Hassan Rouhani reiterated the necessity of respecting Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, underlining the need to restore security and stability to it as soon as possible and provide appropriate conditions that will enable all Syrian displaced people to return home.

Rouhani’s remark came during a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday.

The Iranian President added that talks between the leaders and officials of Iran, Russia and Turkey in Astana and Sochi have been promising in terms of enhancing security and stability in Syria.

He stressed that this constructive track should be further reinforced through the continuous consultations among the heads of the three states.

Rouhani said that fighting terrorism, cleansing Syria of terrorist organizations and countering separatist attempts in the region are among the common objectives of Iran and Turkey, adding that “We should not allow terrorist groups to regain strength and return again to the region.”

He pointed out to the US-Zionist conspiracies against the countries of the region, noting that Iran and Turkey have common objectives regarding the regional and international issues.

The Iranian President called for consolidating cooperation in line with implementing the decisions reached in Astana.

February 20, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

US baits Turkey in hopes of ending Ankara’s Russian dalliance

Leaving aside the issue of the Kurds in Syria, Washington is experienced in leveraging Turkish predicaments – and appears optimistic about doing so again

By MK Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | February 20, 2018

When the host country openly patronizes a Track 2 – or ‘backchannel’ – event, it becomes Track 1.5. The conference in Moscow on Monday under the rubric ‘Russia in the Middle East: Playing on Every Field,’ seemed firmly in this category.

However, just as the event was about to begin, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, joined Russia’s, Sergey Lavrov, on the podium, raising matters to the level Track 1.

Nonetheless, Turkey’s absence must be noted. The backdrop is the US-Turkish “thaw” following a two-day visit to Ankara last weekend by the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The first authoritative comments by the Trump administration regarding Tillerson’s talks came from US Defence Secretary James Mattis, who said on Saturday:

“We concur with Turkey on the need for locals taking control of the liberated areas [in Syria], and we’re going to work with Turkey on the locals taking control, and with Turkey on every other irritant, or diversion or distraction, or every area. We have many areas of absolute concurrence, too. Remember that, they are an ally. We work with them… So this is not an all-one-way issue, but there are significant issues that the Secretary of State and his foreign minister counterpart agreed that we would work through… I can’t tell you that we’ve resolved them all. That means we’re going to work through them. We’re committed to them. That’s where we’re going.”

Mattis was donning a diplomatic hat in projecting such an optimistic assessment. Tillerson’s talks in Ankara were wide-ranging and there were exchanges on creating and jointly managing a zone of influence in northern Syria. But for Turkey, the vacation of the region to the west of the Euphrates by US-backed Kurdish militias is a non-negotiable demand. The Pentagon will be hard-pressed to jettison its alliance with those militias.

The US-Turkey reconciliation process will not be easy. But then again, it does not suit either side to allow the discussions to reach a dead end anytime soon. Turkey’s operation in Afrin is not going well and that puts future operations in doubt – which, in turn, gives time and space for both Ankara and Washington to negotiate. And for the US, while the Kurds may be regarded as useful (perhaps irreplaceable) footsoldiers, the resuscitation of an alliance with Turkey could be a game changer.

Washington senses that Turkish President Recep Erdogan is groping for a way forward. He has made an extra effort in recent weeks to mend ties with Germany, signaling that Turkey does not want isolation from the West. Make no mistake that Washington is greatly experienced in leveraging Turkish predicaments. Washington has shown time and again that it has a way of getting things done with Ankara, its time-tested cold war ally. Mattis’ optimism reflects that.

The big question is how the Russian-Iranian alliance will respond to a potential US-Turkey entente in northern Syria. Indeed, it will be a major setback for Moscow and Tehran if Ankara reverts to coordinating with the US. Events on the ground in recent weeks should leave Moscow in no doubt that eliminating the Russian presence in Eastern Mediterranean is as much a priority for the Pentagon as rolling back Iranian influence in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned Erdogan on Monday to discuss Syria.

Afrin may seem the immediate focal point, but the various protagonists are attempting to create new facts on the ground. Russia and Iran have a congruence of interests in opposing the expansion of the US presence in northern Syria. (Afrin is the gateway to Idlib, which is adjacent to the coastal province of Latakia, where the Russian bases are located.)

Lavrov on Monday warned today that the US should not play with fire. In a hard-hitting speech at the Moscow conference, he alleged that the US is using the Kurds as a proxy and also covertly encouraging extremist groups to “disintegrate Syria”. Meanwhile, the Tass news agency quoted Zarif as stressing to Lavrov that the flow of events “demonstrates the depth of strategic relations between Iran and Russia, which have been playing a very important role in maintaining security and stability in our region.”

However, neither Moscow nor Tehran has voiced any criticism of Turkey. They seem reasonably confident that Turkish-American reconciliation is improbable, since Syria is only the tip of the iceberg against which mutual trust between the two NATO allies crashed in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt against Erdogan in July 2016.

The Russian-Iranian strategy will be to keep Turkey constructively engaged even as Ankara is involved in back-to-back negotiations with Washington beginning in the first half of March. Zarif disclosed in Moscow that he and his Russian and Turkish counterparts propose to meet in Astana in a fortnight to prepare the ground for a trilateral summit meeting of the three presidents in Istanbul regarding Syria.

February 20, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syria to Continue Fighting ‘Aggressors,’ Whether it’s Israel, US or Turkey

Sputnik – 19.02.2018

Syria should continue fighting the US, Turkish and Israeli “invaders” who attacked the country right after it got rid of terrorists, Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to the Syrian president, said Monday.

“We should go on fighting any foreign invaders on our land, whether it’s Israeli, American or Turkish,” Shaaban said at the Valdai Discussion Club’s Middle East Conference.

She noted that those countries launched an attack against Damascus right after it managed to free the country of terrorists.

“When we are able to liberate most of our land from terrorism, Israel, Turkey and the United States start to attack our land,” the adviser stressed.

According to Shaaban, Ankara does not implement the Astana agreements on the settlement of the Syrian crisis but uses it as an excuse “to invade the country.”

“Turkey facilitated the arrival of all these mercenaries and when it felt that these terrorist mercenaries were loosing the ground, it invaded the Syrian territory in full cooperation with terrorists. Turkey invaded our land in full violation of the international law and used Astana Agreement as a cover for invading the Syrian territory on an unexpected pretext,” Shaaban said at the Valdai Discussion Club’s Middle East Conference.

Ankara has been carrying out “Olive Branch” operation in Syrian northern district of Afrin since January 20, saying that its offensive was aimed at clearing the Turkish border with Syria from terrorist presence. Turkey considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the allied Democratic Union Party (PYD) to be linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara.

Turkey has said that around 1,500 militants have been killed or captured as a result of the ongoing operation.

Damascus has expressed its opposition to the Turkish operation in Afrin, saying that such actions violated Syrian sovereignty.

On Russia’s Aide

Speaking further, the Shaaban noted that Russian army had no presence in Syria, while all the Russia’s support to Syria comes from the country’s air force.

“There is no Russian army in Syria. There is only air force. All other reports in the western media are just propaganda,” Shaaban told reporters.

Last December, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to withdraw Russian forces from Syria, after completing their task to destroy Daesh.

Earlier in the day, Moscow began hosting a two-day conference covering a whole range of Middle Eastern issues, which is being attended by high-ranking officials, such as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

Resistance front will purge US from eastern Euphrates: Iran

Press TV – February 17, 2018

A senior Iranian official says the resistance front in the region will push the United States and Israel out of the eastern side of the Euphrates River, which flows from Turkey through Syria and into Iraq.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on international affairs, made the remarks in a conference on Islamic unity in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Saturday.

Velayati said the Americans and Arabs are trying to create “a new Middle East, whose reality will be marked by the disintegration of Muslim societies.”

He said Washington was seeking to split Syria through its presence in the eastern Euphrates.

He also referred to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent Middle East tour, saying the visit had been aimed at broadening the division among the Muslim Ummah and Muslim countries.

Velayati said the Americans were seeking to establish bases for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with the help of Muslim states to prevent unity among these countries.

“The Americans and Zionists should know that as they were defeated in the Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, their illusions won’t materialize. The resistance front in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon will push them out of the eastern Euphrates,” he said.

Much of northeast Syria to the east of the Euphrates is controlled by the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the militants from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and is backed by the US.

The US announced last month that it would work with the SDF to set up a new 30,000-strong “border security” force along the Turkish border with Iraq and within Syria along the Euphrates River.

February 17, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Next Logical Step: General Assembly Intervention Plan to End the Maritime Siege of Gaza

Break the Maritime Siege of Gaza | February 15, 2018

Gaza is the largest open air prison in the world, with 2 million people, mostly children. Now it is lacking potable water, with only 2-4 hours of electricity per day. There is severe widespread physical and psychological trauma and illnesses from numerous Israeli bomb attacks and ground invasions. These have killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless, with widespread infrastructure destroyed. Gaza is suffocating. The UN has predicted that Gaza will become uninhabitable within the next 2 years.

Background

In 1967, Israel invaded and occupied the Gaza Strip. The people of Gaza have suffered under a maritime siege ever since. This blockade is inhumane and illegal. It amounts to collective persecution.

Unlike any other seafaring people in the world, Gaza’s Palestinians have been unable to use their ports to conduct any international commerce for over 50 years — since the 1967 Six Day War.  Ships from the Gaza Strip are prevented from leaving Gaza territorial waters, and international cargo is prevented from sailing directly into Gaza. Israel illegally blocks food, medicine, fuel, repair equipment, and other materials to and from Gaza. All goods intended for Gaza must go through Israeli ports, and Israel completely controls what is allowed in and out of Gaza. For the last 11 years, this siege has become extremely severe.

Despite international standards of 20 nautical miles, Gaza fishing vessels are limited to 3-6 nautical miles, depending on the whims of the occupier.  Fishers often suffer violent attacks by Israeli warships.  They have been injured and killed, and many Gazan fishing vessels have been confiscated, damaged and destroyed.

An international civil society group, the Free Gaza Movement, breached this maritime siege by successfully sailing into Gaza five times in 2008. Ever since, attempts to sail additional boats into Gaza by the Free Gaza Movement, and subsequently the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, have been stopped by violent Israeli piracy in international waters. Activists have been injured and killed, thrown into Israeli prisons, and deported. Boats and ships have been hijacked and confiscated by Israel.  In 2014, “Gaza’s Ark,” an international initiative to build a cargo ship in Gaza to sail Gaza merchandise to international markets was crushed when Israeli warplanes completely destroyed the reconstructed ship in Gaza Harbor just before the boat’s renovation was complete. To date, the international community has been unwilling to take any substantial action that could give Gaza the right to maritime commerce like all other countries in the world.

For decades, the U.S. has consistently blocked resolutions at the UN that are critical of Israel. Since the UN Security Council is hopelessly deadlocked with inevitable U.S. vetoes, and since acts of Israeli piracy toward international vessels attempting to reach Gaza occur without consequence, it is time to take the next logical step:  A UN General Assembly Intervention Plan (GAIP) toward ending the maritime siege of Gaza.

A Solution 

Several groups are now proposing General Assembly action under the “Uniting For Peace Doctrine” to permanently and nonviolently end the Israeli maritime blockade against Gaza. U.S. vetoes have prevented the Security Council from solving the decades-long Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. The international community cannot continue to simply stand by and allow the suffering of the Palestinians to continue, especially in Gaza, where the abuse is so clear and so preventable. The General Assembly can implement this General Assembly Intervention Plan, a flotilla of state-sponsored cargo ships to carry humanitarian supplies to Gaza free of any Israeli interference. The G.A. can also require that the Israeli blockade end under threat of serious sanctions.

The blockade is a clear “breach of the peace.” The Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza is seen by most international experts as illegal. Ironically and to the point, Israel itself identified the creation of a maritime blockade by Egypt in 1967 as being illegal and a casus belli (an act of war). The United States backed that Israeli position in 1967 asserting that uninvolved nations could break an illegal blockade between A and B, and the U.S. President, Lyndon Johnson, proposed such a flotilla of military ships to break what he understood to be an illegal Egyptian maritime blockade of an important Israeli port.

The Uniting for Peace Doctrine states:

“Conscious that (the) failure of the Security Council to discharge its responsibilities where there appears to be a … breach of the peace … does not relieve Member States of their obligations or the United Nations of its responsibility under the Charter to maintain international peace and security, … (The General Assembly states that) in any cases where the Security Council … fails to act as required to maintain international peace …, the General Assembly …. shall … (step in and make) appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures (of any kind) … to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

This General Assembly action would not be vulnerable to any Security Council veto, because it will not need American approval. This blockade is an issue that can be completely solved by the General Assembly without force or violence. Furthermore, such action would stipulate that the Israeli maritime blockade ends under threat of serious sanctions. It is time to take concrete substantial support for the Palestinians, in particular, for the people of Gaza.

Moving Forward

A group of activists from the U.S. and Sweden went to the United Nations for a week this past November, coinciding with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Our intention was to bring attention to this General Assembly Intervention Plan for Gaza, gain support, and generate discussion among a number of missions.

While at the UN, along with our allied organizations, we had meetings with officials from the Palestine Mission to the UN and 12 other nations.

Riyad Mansour, the Ambassador for the Palestine Mission to the UN, met with us and gave his blessings. Although he was not able to fully endorse this initiative based on a first meeting, he assured us that he would not oppose it. We also paid visits to several other UN Missions and distributed the 11-page General Assembly Intervention Plan for Breaking the Maritime Blockade of Gaza.

We also were able to make contact with Ambassador Fode Seck of Senegal, who chairs the CEIRPP, Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. On Wednesday, November 29, 2017, we attended the UN sessions of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. At the evening reception, we had informal discussions with other mission representatives and members of civil society supporting Palestinian rights.

In summary, the General Assembly Intervention plan is the next logical step, following the giant footsteps of the Free Gaza Movement and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. Its goal is to permanently end the 50 year old maritime siege of Gaza. The GAIP is gaining a growing list of endorsers, which include, but are not limited to:

Richard Falk, Rima Khalaf, Hans von Sponeck, Denis Halliday, Miko Peled, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ramzy Baroud, Rashid Khalidi, Freedom Flotilla Coalition, BDS South Africa and the Rachel Corrie Foundation.

– If you would like to see the full General Assembly Intervention Plan and/or endorse our initiative and/or help move this process forward, please contact us at BreakMaritimeBlockade@gmail.com

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Taliban Letter to the American People

Full text in English of the Taliban “Letter to the American People” published February 14, 2018

Letter of the Islamic Emirate to the American people!

The American people, officials of independent non-governmental organizations and the peace loving Congressmen!

With the hope that you will read this letter prudently and will evaluate the future of American forces and your profit and loss inside Afghanistan in light of the prevailing realities alluded to in the following lines!

The American people!

You realize that your political leadership launched a military invasion of our country 17 years ago. This invasion was not only contrary to the legal and national norms of our own sovereign country but also a violation of all international rules and regulations, but still the following three main points were put forward by your authorities to justify this illegitimate invasion:

1. Establishing security by eliminating the so called terrorists inside Afghanistan.
2. Restoring law and order by establishing a legal government.
3. Eradicating narcotics.

However let us analyze how successful your war-monger leaders were in achieving the above three slogans in this illegitimate war?

Increased insecurity and fighting:

In 2001 when your ex-president George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, his justification for that felonious act was the elimination the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) and Al-Qaeda.

But despite continuing this bloody war for seventeen years and accepting huge casualties and financial losses, your current president Donald Trump – to continue the illegal 17 year old war in Afghanistan – acknowledged increased insecurity and emergence of multiple groups instead of the single unified Islamic Emirate (Taliban).

This was stated by Trump while declaring his new war strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia on 23rd August 2017 and seventeen years later, again ordered the perpetuation of the same illegitimate occupation and war against the Afghan people. Since your authorities admit the presence of multiple warring factions inside Afghanistan, it verifies our claim that by invading Afghanistan and overthrowing a unified responsible government of Taliban, the Americans have merely paved the way for anarchy in the country.

No matter what title or justification is presented by your undiscerning authorities for the war in Afghanistan, the reality is that tens of thousands of helpless Afghans including women and children were martyred by your forces, hundreds of thousands were injured and thousands more were incarcerated in Guantanamo, Bagram and various other secret jails and treated in such a humiliating way that has not only brought shame upon humanity but is also a violation of all claims of American culture and civilization.

In this lopsided war and as confirmed by your own military authorities, 3546 American and foreign soldiers have been killed, more than 20,000 American forces injured and tens of thousands more are suffering mentally but in reality the amount of your casualties is several times higher and is deliberately being concealed by your leaders. Similarly this war has cost you trillions of dollars thus making it one of the bloodiest, longest and costliest war in the contemporary history of your country.

Chaos and the most corrupt regime:

Even though it is not the duty of America to draft laws and suggest systems for other countries but nevertheless, the second excuse of George W. Bush for the invasion of Afghanistan was to establish a supposed legitimate government. But despite seventeen years of war costing thousands of American and coalition lives and billions of dollars, such a system has taken root in Afghanistan which has achieved the following administrative, legal, military and political records:

Number one internationally in administrative and financial corruption.
Number one internationally in violating human rights.
Number one internationally in usurping of land and embezzling international aid.
Number one internationally in violence against women, etc. etc.

The latest example of the corrupt regime formed in the wake of American invasion is the presence of a two-headed system which is unparalleled in the established laws of forming a government throughout the world.

Production and expansion of narcotics:

The third justification of George W. Bush to invade Afghanistan was the prevention and eradication of narcotics. Let us examine the amount and levels of production and expansion of the narcotic trade in Afghanistan after seventeen year war effort?

According to the data provided by UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes) – prior to the American invasion – poppy was cultivated only on 185 hectors land of Afghanistan and only in areas controlled by anti-Taliban forces whereas the level of heroin addiction among Afghans was next to nil. But following the American invasion of Afghanistan, poppy cultivation skyrocketed from 185 hectors to 328,000 hectors while under the shadow of seventeen year occupation, the number of drug addicts has reached 3 million people.

On 21st December 2017, the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes) reported that drug production increased by 87% and poppy cultivation increased by 63% during the year 2017, thus mounting the total production of narcotics to 9000 metric tons.

The American people!

You proclaim to be a developed and civilized nation of the world. Since the imposed government in Afghanistan is established by you therefore we leave it to your judgment to decide – according to your logic and conscience – whether the present system and its pertinent changes, insecurity, chaos and 87% increase in narcotics are reforms or crimes against humanity?

Your authorities proclaim that tens of billions of dollars have been spent on various reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. Of course this is the same money which is collected from you as taxes and revenues, but here it has been distributed among thieves and murderers.

Do you agree that the hard earned money of your labor should be wasted on such a corrupt system where in only one criminal case, $900 million were stolen from Kabul Bank by corrupt officials?

Do you consider it the rule of law in American culture and lexicon where the first deputy of a government is a person involved in the felonious act of sexual assault on a 70-year-old man besides hundreds of other crimes against humanity?

Is this the civilization, modernity and rule of law proclaimed by you in the world?

Were your 3546 forces killed in Afghanistan to establish and empower such a system?

Can your scholars, intellectuals and unbiased analysts produce an answer to our questions?

You must understand that our people are living, watching and closely analyzing all these calamities and that is why the regime working under the shadow of your military support and the corrupt elements assembled therein are not looked upon as a legitimate government rather they are considered a band of usurpers, looters, mafia warlords and drug-dealers while at the same time, the resistance against them is considered their legal, moral and national obligation. The people working alongside you to impose this system are committing treason against our nation and national interests. On the other hand, the people who waging armed resistance against your corrupt regime are the defenders of their homeland, national interests, sovereignty as well as their dignity and they are revered by the Afghan masses as their heroes. That the American media is propagating against the Afghan resistance and labelling them as foreign terrorists instead of Afghan freedom fighters, all of this is baseless propaganda aimed at concealing their own humiliating defeat. To repudiate this propaganda, we only want to say that had there been any chance of success in Afghanistan with foreign support, the American invaders and their coalition forces would definitely have succeeded due to enjoying the political and military support of a powerful country like the United States of America as well as the support of a well-equipped military alliance like NATO.

The People of America!

We would like to summarize our message to you in the following words:

The Afghans who are fighting your forces and any other invader today, this is their legal, religious and national obligation. However mighty and well-equipped your forces might be, even if supported by the entire world, this resistance will be sustained by the Afghan people due to their religious, legal and national obligation. This resistance is considered by Afghan masses as a sacred responsibility of defending their creed and country. To relinquish this sacred obligation is considered by them as abandoning Islam and all human values and this disgrace is never acceptable for any valiant Muslim Afghan individual.

Afghans have continued to burn for the last four decades in the fire of imposed wars. They are longing for peace and a just system but they will never tire from their just cause of defending their creed, country and nation against the invading forces of your war-mongering government because they have rendered all the previous and present historic sacrifices to safeguard their religious values and national sovereignty. If they make a deal on their sovereignty now, it would be unforgettable infidelity with their proud history and ancestors.

Afghanistan is a country which has maintained its independence throughout its several thousand year history. Even in the 19th and 20th century when most Muslim countries were occupied by the then European imperial powers, Afghanistan was the only country in the region to preserve its independence and despite an eighty year imperialistic endeavor, the British failed make them accept occupation. It is the same inherent zeal and historic succession in the hearts and minds of Afghan masses which presently inspires this empty-handed nation to continue protracted resistance against your occupying forces. This is not exaggeration rather irrefutable reality that today the valiant Afghan self-sacrificial attackers are competing among themselves to carry out martyrdom seeking attacks against your invading forces.

This national religious resistance of the Afghans is not a futile war, rather it is progressing everyday as various parts of the country are liberated. At this moment the head of SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) acknowledged that sixty percent of Afghan territory is under the control of Taliban (Islamic Emirate).

In 2001 during the American invasion of Afghanistan, a number of world countries came under the influence of misleading propaganda by your officials and supported the warring strategy of the then president George W. Bush. But today we see that your government has lost that international support as a number of your coalition partners have withdrawn their forces from our country by discerning the prevailing realities and they are currently seeking a political solution. The international community at large is now backing our justified resistance against the illegitimate American occupation. If your government is still insisting on perpetuating the war in Afghanistan by conjuring excuses, it will further undermine American prestige in the world.

The People of America!

In the American society where the main source of power is the masses and the authorities are elected by public votes, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – as representatives of the will of Afghan nation – asks the American people and the peace loving Congressmen to put pressure on your authorities and demand an end to the occupation of Afghanistan because stubbornly seeking the protraction of this war and existence of a corrupt and ineffective regime here in Kabul will have dreadful consequences for the region and particularly for the stability of America herself.

The Afghan masses feel pity for the whole American nation because they are being sacrificed and are losing respect through the world with each passing day solely due the war-mongering policies of a few war-mongering officials.

Your intellectuals, peace loving Congressmen and independent chiefs of civil organizations should question your authorities as to why the American people are so insecure and detested at home and abroad despite their international prestige?

For how long will your modern country and your children continue to be sacrificed for the war-mongering policies of a few war-mongering officials?

And what eventual benefit will these warring policies bring for your country?

The American People!

Your president and his military and political officials following his war policies still speak the language of war in Afghanistan. They intentionally release fake statistics for the sake of their vested interests and misguide you and the world by throwing dust in your eyes. The reality is that in contemporary world, the use of force and arms has been replaced by peaceful dialogue and wars cannot be won with lies.

Only in past September – in accordance with Trump’s new strategy – American forces used all their new powers and carried out 751 air strikes. You should ask your Generals that despite using such force, have you retaken even a single inch of land from the Taliban or have they become even more powerful.

If you do not understand the inexperienced policies of president Trump and his war-monger advisors, then look no further than his irrational decision of shifting the American embassy to from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which brought America in opposition with 128 countries of the world.

Truly it is humiliating for a civilized people like you to be confronted with such a decisive international majority. It was only due of the pursuit of policies of force which pitted majority of the world countries against America, and your authorities are still insistent upon that ridiculous policy!!

The Islamic Emirate had asked America from the very beginning to solve her issues with the Islamic Emirate through talk and dialogue. The use of force has adverse consequences, and you might have now discerned the bitter consequences of American aggression against Afghanistan. If the policy of using force is exercised for a hundred more years and a hundred new strategies are adopted, the outcome of all of these will be the same as you have observed over the last six months following the initiation of Trump’s new strategy.

According we still believe that it is not too late for the American people to understand that the Islamic Emirate – as representative of its people – can solve its problems with every side through healthy politics and dialogue. Needless use of force only complicates the issues by creating new dimensions which gradually move out of the realm of control. The Islamic Emirate is a regional power with deep roots which cannot be subdued by sheer force. The chances of dialogue however are not exhausted. The American people must understand that the Islamic Emirate understands its responsibility and can play a constructive role in finding a peaceful solution for issues but this can never mean that we are exhausted or our will has been sapped. It is our policy that logic should be given a chance before the use of force. Whatever can be achieved by logic, should not be relinquished due to the use of force. It is the moral obligation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to inform you, the American masses, about these realities.

We must state that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan undertakes legitimate efforts for the independence of our homeland. Having a sovereign country free from any foreign occupation is our natural and human right. Seeking freedom of our homeland and establishing an Islamic system conforming to the creed of our people can never be called terrorism by any law of the world. It is worth mentioning that we have no agenda of playing any destructive role in any other country and we have practically proven over the past seventeen years that we have not interfered in any other country. Likewise we will not allow anyone else to use Afghan territory against any other country. War is imposed on us, it is not our choice. Our preference is to solve the Afghan issue through peaceful dialogues. America must end her occupation and must accept all our legitimate rights including the right to form a government consistent with the beliefs of our people. After gaining independence, we would like to have positive and constructive relations with all countries of the world including our neighboring countries. We welcome their assistance and support in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of our country. We want to play a beneficial role in regional and world peace and stability, provide high standard education and employment opportunities for our people and guarantee all human and legal rights of every child, woman and man, secure our youth from drugs and all other moral indecencies, provided job opportunities to every individual such that they not leave their homeland or seek refuge abroad.

In brief, insisting on prolonging the war in Afghanistan and maintaining American troop presence is neither beneficial for America nor for anyone else, rather it endangers the stability of the entire world. This is irrefutable reality which is only rejected by your arrogant authorities. If you want peaceful dialogue with the Afghans specifically and with the world generally, then make your president and the war-mongering congressmen and Pentagon officials understand this reality and compel them to adopt a rational policy towards Afghanistan!

This will be the most constructive step for the stability of your people, the Afghans as well as the whole world.

Our only obligation is to convey (the message) to you!

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
هـ ق 1439/5/28
هـ ش 1396/11/25

February 15, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 8 Comments